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Politics

Erdogan Holds onto Power in Turkey: Will He Test Greece This Summer?

ATHENS – The re-election of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, continuing his 20-year run in power – perhaps for life – came as Greece was in transition, with a caretaker government ahead of a second round of elections June 25.

While that’s expected to see New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis returning as well, after his nearly four-year administration had to dissolve ahead of the next poll, what happens after that with Turkey is up in the air.

Mitsotakis is hoping for a large enough victory to seal a Parliamentary majority and perpetuating single-party rule in Greece, but a spring Greece-Turkey rapprochement could see a hot summer as he goes head-to-head with Erdogan.

The volatile Turkish leader, securely cementing his dominance after raising a fervor among his zealous nationalist base in provoking Greece and even threatening an invasion, hasn’t yet tipped his hand about whether he’ll return to belligerence or keep diplomacy going.

The two countries eased back on tensions after Greece sent recovery crews to help Turkey deal with an earthquake that killed more than 50,000, and Erdogan sent condolences to Greece over a train wreck that killed 57.

Turkish President and People’s Alliance’s presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, makes a speech next to his wife, Emine, at the presidential palace, in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, May 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Ali Unal)

That could fade, especially with July 24 being the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne that Erdogan doesn’t recognize because it ceded away islands to Greece he wants returned, The New York Sun noted.

But he has cited the document to his advantage in demanding that Greek take troops off Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast and warned it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles.

After Mitsotakis in May, 2022 addressed the U.S. Congress and urged lawmakers to reject President Joe Biden’s plan to sell Turkey more F-16s that could be used against Greece, Erdogan broke off communications with him.

The twin tragedies brought some re-communication, but not over the most delicate issues or disputes between them, particularly sovereignty of the seas as Erdogan further tries to establish Turkey as a regional power.

Mitsotakis, who had largely ignored Erdogan’s rants before they ceased, told the Greek TV station Mega that, “as long as the Greek people trust me again, I will seek a meeting with Erdogan.”

The United States, Greece and Turkey are members of  NATO, whose leader Jens Stoltenberg has called both Turkey and Erdogan a “valuable ally” despite the Turkish President buying Russian S-400 missile defenses that also undermined the alliance’s security.

The sense from Athens about how to deal with a newly-empowered Erdogan is a balancing act and the newspaper noted that, “By force of proximity, it (Greece) will have to be more pragmatic.”

The report said that, “a steady consolidation of Turkish nationalism in the years ahead is almost a given, but how that overarching trend plays out day to day is anybody’s guess.”

Erdogan’s solidified hold on power and Turkey’s importance to NATO keeps him in the driver’s seat in dealing with the alliance and even with Biden, who was said to have told him in a phone call after re-election that he will push for the F-16’s.

That was indicated a quid pro quo for Erdogan not vetoing the entry of Sweden into NATO although he’s peeved that the country is where journalists he’s been trying to silence have put themselves in exile and keep taking shots at him from there.

He was also elected based largely on whipping up the fervor of his nationalist base who liked his threats to invade Greece and create a ‘Blue Homeland’ that imagines taking swathes of Greek territory, and coveting return of those Aegean islands lost.

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